Archive for the ‘Fitness’ Category

Take It Easy: Preventing and Treating Shin Splints

Wednesday, February 29th, 2012

What are shin splints?
Typically, shin splints cause pain or tenderness along the shin bone from inflamed muscles, tendons, and connective tissue. The injury is most commonly seen in runners, aerobic dancers, and people in the military. Mild shin splints may only bother you during exercise, but severe shin splints may hurt all the time.

Shin splints often stem from over-exercising or making a sudden change to your workout routine. Factors that increase the risk for shin splints include:

•Doing too much exercise too soon. For example, shin splints may happen when runners increase mileage or intensity quickly.
•Not taking enough time to rest between workouts
•Working out in shoes that lack support
•Exercising on a hard surface
•Possibly having flat feet or abnormally high and stiff arches
•Not stretching well enough before exercising
To help prevent shin splints:

•Increase exercise gradually. This includes how often you exercise and the length of time and intensity of each session. Check with your doctor before increasing your activity level.
•Change up your running surface. Always running on concrete or asphalt can increase your risk for injury. Try to run on softer surfaces, like a dirt trail.
•Wear the right shoes for the exercise you are doing. Make sure they fit properly, give good support, and absorb shock well. Replace your shoes when they get worn out. If you have flat feet or rigid arches, orthotics (shoe inserts) may help.
•Do more than one type of exercise. Cross-training can help you avoid over-use injuries. Try alternating running on some days with swimming or using the elliptical trainer on other days.
•Use proper exercise form. Check out your technique with a coach or trainer.
•Stretch and strengthen. Stretching after warming up but before a workout may help some people reduce the risk of shin splints. Strengthening the muscles in your legs can lessen the stress on the lower leg muscles during exercise.
How to treat shin splints
If you get shin splints, the following may help:

•Rest. Stop doing the exercise that brought on the shin splints. Take at least 7 to 10 days off from the painful activity. Some people may need to take weeks or even months off from running. You may be able to do other, non-weight-bearing exercises in the meantime. For example, if you usually run, you may be able to bike or swim instead. Check with your doctor to see what activities you can safely do.
•Ice the affected area. Apply a cold pack or ice wrapped in a towel for minutes several times a day for several days. If you have diabetes, poor circulation, or blood vessel disorders (such as vasculitis or Raynaud’s disease), talk with your doctor before using an ice pack.
•Stretch. Have your doctor or trainer show you stretches that can give you some relief.
•Use pain relief medications. If there is a lot of swelling and pain, your doctor may suggest using an anti-inflammatory medication. A non-steroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAID) medicine, such as ibuprofen or naproxen, may help. Always check with your doctor first before taking any over-the-counter medicines.
Once your pain and swelling have gone away, you may be able to gradually go back to the exercise that caused your shin splints. But don’t make the same mistake again. The key is to create an exercise routine that is right for you. If you feel any pain, stop exercising immediately.

When to visit your doctor
It’s best to see your doctor for a checkup if:

•Your shin pain persists after rest and self-care.
•You have severe pain, swelling, or numbness.
•You can’t put any weight on your legs.
Your doctor can tell you if your shin pain is caused by shin splints or something else, like a stress fracture.

Fit to a Tee: The Basics of Golf

Wednesday, February 29th, 2012

Think golf is just a slow-paced game for businessmen in plaid pants? Think again – it might be worth taking a swing at. It may even help you live longer. Golf requires athletic skill, stamina, flexibility, strength, and concentration. It’s competitive and anyone can play regardless of age or sex. Golf is fun and challenging for all levels – from putt-putter to pro.

The goal: hit the ball into a small cup using as few strokes as possible.

People are drawn to golf for many reasons:

•You can play outdoors on beautifully landscaped courses.
•No two golf courses are exactly the same. Each course has unique challenges.
•You can play alone or with others. You can affect only your own score, not that of your opponents.
•Golf boosts your mood, provides a social outlet, and improves your health.
Play 18 holes and call me in the morning
It’s well documented that physical activity can improve your health. And one Swedish study added strength to the argument for golf by suggesting regular golf playing may also extend life expectancy. The study theorized that the combination of physical activity – walking the links – and the positive psychological effects of golf may be the key. Further studies are needed to see if this assumption is true.

Burns calories and more
You can control the amount of calories you burn playing golf. You can play an easy-paced game, ride in a cart, and burn the minimum numbers of calories. Or you can double the calories you burn by carrying your own clubs and walking. The actual calories burned during golf are also affected by body weight, intensity of workout, conditioning level, and your metabolism. Estimate about 300 calories per hour of golf if you walk the links and carry your own bag.

Besides burning calories, there are other health benefits to golf, including building strength and flexibility, plus exposure to vitamin D from the sun’s rays (but be sure to wear sunscreen). Carrying your clubs while you walk is a weight-bearing exercise that helps build strong bones.

Check with your doctor before you start or increase your physical activity, especially if you have health problems.

Par for the course
As with any sport, there are a few downsides.

•Potential for injury. Like any sport, there is the potential for injury while playing golf. Elbow, shoulder, back, and knee injuries are among the most common. Learning proper technique and using good equipment can help prevent injury.
•Time-consuming and expensive. A round of golf typically takes 4 hours or more, and – depending on the course – can cost anywhere from 25 to hundreds of dollars for greens fees. Equipment is also expensive. When just starting out, consider borrowing some clubs or renting a set until you get some experience under your belt.
Getting started
A few things to get your game in gear:

•Clothing. Comfortable, appropriate, lightweight clothing and golf-specific shoes (with or without spikes) are needed. A golf glove, which is worn to improve grip, is optional.
•Golf bag. Specially designed carrier for your golf clubs and other equipment.
•Golf balls. Small, resilient balls, not greater than 1.62 ounces and not less than 1.68 inches in diameter as specified by the U.S. Golf Association. (In international competition, golf balls must not be less than 1.62 inches in diameter.)
•Golf clubs. Standard set is up to 14 clubs divided into woods (with heads of wood or metal) used mainly for tee shots and irons (with heads of forged steel, usually chromium plated) used for closer, more accurate shots.
•Miscellaneous. Tees are small pegs that lift the ball at least one-half inch off the ground. Coins may be used to mark the position of a ball. Water is recommended for drinking. A jacket for changing weather conditions and a towel for perspiration are recommended.

9 Ways to Exercise When You Don’t Have Time

Wednesday, February 29th, 2012

You know exercise can help improve your health and lose weight. Yet, 1 in 4 adults doesn’t exercise, according to the U.S. Surgeon General.

Hectic schedules may be to blame. It can be tough to exercise when juggling work, school, family, and more. It’s worth squeezing it in, though, because regular exercise can relieve daily stress and lift your mood. At the same time, you can reduce your risks of diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease.

Aim to be active for at least 30 minutes most days or a total of two and a half hours per week, but it’s OK to start slowly. Find activities that you enjoy. Check with your doctor before increasing your activity level, then get started.

Tips for fitting in fitness

•Wake up a little earlier. Start by setting your alarm clock just 5 minutes earlier. Do stretches and jumping jacks before getting in the shower, or follow a short exercise DVD.
•Find a workout buddy. Exercising with a friend is more fun and a good motivator. Ask a coworker to go for a walk during lunch or see if a neighbor wants to shoot hoops. It will be harder to skip a workout if you know someone is counting on you.
•Change into exercise clothes before leaving work. You’ll be ready for a brisk walk as soon as you get home or more motivated to stop at the gym if you are already dressed for it.
•Schedule your fitness activities. If you put exercise on your calendar like other appointments, you’re more likely to do it.
•Acknowledge your successes. Keep a log of all the times you make a healthy choice to move more, such as by taking the stairs instead of an elevator. After the first week, reward yourself with a new pair of sneakers or a cool new water bottle.
•Create a home (or desk) gym. If you have equipment always at the ready, it will be easy to steal 10 minutes to use it. A jump rope, a stability ball, exercise bands, and dumbbells don’t cost much or take up much room.
•Move while you watch TV. Don’t sit idly – or worse, eat mindlessly – during commercials. Do sit-ups or jog in place instead.
•Play games with your kids. Don’t just watch while your kids play outside – join in their fun. Play tag or just toss a ball back and forth. If your kids love video games, think about swapping their favorite game for an active one in which the user must move his or her body to play. The whole family will break a sweat by dancing or using special controllers to compete at boxing, tennis, golf, and bowling.
•Exercise while you work. Raise your activity level and productivity with neck rolls or arm raises. Push hands out to the side and then up toward the ceiling. Take a brisk walk during your break. Use the stairs instead of the elevator.
Stepping it up
After you’ve built short periods of activity into your day, think about times when you could lengthen each burst by a few minutes. The key is to start small and ramp up gradually.

Even if you’re worn out from a busy day, try to make time for fitness. Regular exercise actually boosts your energy level. Exercise, along with sensible nutrition, is also important for losing and maintaining weight.

Next time you look for an excuse to skip exercise, remind yourself of the benefits. You’re helping yourself feel good, look better, and live longer. Who wouldn’t want that?

Get the Skinny on Cleanses

Wednesday, February 29th, 2012

When Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher went on a master cleanse of fresh lemon juice, cayenne pepper, and maple syrup in July 2010, they tweeted about their progress. On day one of their diet, Moore declared, “This is about health!!!”, in other words, not about weight loss. “9 hrs into the master cleanse,” tweeted Kutcher. “I want a steak, a beer, and a blow-pop. Hmmm this is gonna be rough.”

Every year, millions of Americans go on a diet of some sort. And depending on which magazines, web sites, and Twitter feeds you read, it seems that a number of Hollywood celebrities are using some form of master cleanse to feel better and/or look better. During the filming of Dreamgirls, Beyoncé lost 20 pounds in 10 days on a diet of maple syrup, lemon water, and cayenne pepper. In a 2008 conversation with Interview magazine, Eddie Vedder said, “I’m on a detox thing. It’s a heavy detox, so nothing in my belly except water, salt, and cayenne pepper.”

If you’ve been wondering about master cleanses and where they came from, here’s a brief overview of the diets and their potential health implications.

What Is a Master Cleanse?

The Master Cleanse, also known as the Beyoncé Diet, the Lemonade Diet, the Lemon Cleansing Diet, and the Maple Syrup Diet, was developed in 1940 by Stanley Burroughs, an alternative health practitioner and practicing nudist. The cleanse takes 10 days, and includes six to 12 glasses of a concoction that includes lemon juice, maple syrup, cayenne pepper, and water. Dieters also drink salt water every morning, and herbal laxative tea at night. At the end of the 10 days, solid foods are slowly integrated back into the diet.

Good to Know

•The Master Cleanse provides virtually no nutrients or protein. It is technically not a fast, as it provides about 650 to 1,300 calories a day, primarily from the maple syrup.
•There is no medical evidence that cleanses benefit the body. The body is constantly absorbing nutrients, shedding old cells, and getting rid of excess waste. Interfering with this process may be potentially harmful.
•Cleanses, fasts, and other nutrient-deficient diets may deplete muscle, including your heart, and may damage your liver, kidneys and other organs.
Create a Healthy Weight Management Plan

If you’re serious about losing weight and keeping it off, talk to your doctor about creating a plan that reflects your own personal tastes and preferences in food and physical activity. Use the following guidelines to develop your own healthy eating and exercise plan.

•Emphasize fruits, vegetables, whole grains and fat-free or low-fat dairy products.
•Include lean meats, poultry, fish, beans, eggs and nuts.
•Reduce or avoid saturated fats, trans fats, cholesterol, salt (sodium) and added sugars.
•Spend time walking, biking, doing housework or doing some other form of physical activity every day.
Editor’s Note: This article is not intended to provide medical advice. Please consult your doctor about creating your own healthy eating and exercise plan.

Key Strategies for Keeping the Weight Off

Wednesday, February 29th, 2012

It’s hard to lose weight. Shedding pounds and trimming down take dedication, discipline, and months of effort. But then many find that staying at goal weight can be as tough as losing the weight in the first place.

All too often, the weight creeps back on, sometimes climbing higher than it was before. Some studies suggest that repeated bouts of weight loss and weight gain can take a toll on your physical and emotional health and may cause:

•Depression and anxiety
•Bingeing or eating a lot of food while feeling out of control
•More difficulty losing weight as you get older
•Increased risk of chronic disease, such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol
Taking off the weight… for good
The good news is that it is possible to achieve and maintain significant amounts of weight loss.In fact, about 20 percent of people in the general population are successful at long-term weight loss maintenance. This is defined as maintaining a 10 percent weight loss for 6 months to a year or more.

So what’s the secret to keeping the weight off for good? Studies and surveys reveal the following top strategies of successful “maintainers.” You can think of them as steps you can take to claim your own success.

Be physically active. Engaging in some type of physical activity most days of the week tops the list as one of the main factors in maintaining weight loss. This could include brisk walking, jogging, exercise classes or tapes, dancing, biking – anything that gets your heart pumping. Exercise can also improve well-being, which may have an impact on helping you stick with other positive lifestyle behaviors (like eating well and having a positive outlook). Working in strength training also has benefits because it builds muscle mass, which increases metabolism. Find something you truly enjoy doing – this will help you stick with it. Check with your doctor before increasing your activity level.

Watch your diet. A meal plan that allows for adequate calories, protein, and fat and is not overly restrictive has been shown to be the most beneficial. Severe calorie restrictions and fad diets tend to backfire and typically do not work in the long run. Having regular meals (not skipping) and keeping healthy eating patterns on weekends as well as weekdays is also a common success strategy.

Have realistic weight goals. The majority of people who maintain their weight loss have achieved their weight goal. In order to do this, it’s vitally important to have a realistic goal weight. Numerous studies have shown that even a 10-percent loss of body weight can go a long way towards reducing the risk of chronic disease. Be sure to set a goal you feel is achievable. You can always choose to lose more weight (if necessary) once you reach that goal.

Eat breakfast. Breakfast can reduce hunger, helping you keep your calories under control the rest of the day. Breakfast also provides energy, which can help fuel workouts. Aim for a satisfying breakfast that includes some protein and wholesome carbs, such as whole-grain cereal and fruit; whole-grain bread and natural peanut butter; yogurt and nuts; or eggs and toast.

Monitor your weight regularly. Consistent weighing (either daily or weekly) can help to catch weight gains before they get out of control. Just be aware that weight can vary from day to day based on water retention or other factors. If slight daily variations on the scale will be upsetting, weigh yourself once a week. Be aware that morning weights are usually the most accurate. Food journaling can also be a helpful tool for self-monitoring and awareness.

Learn to manage stressful situations. Stress can often lead to overeating or eating foods that may promote weight gain. People who are able to maintain their weight have learned coping mechanisms that help them deal with stress in ways that do not involve food.

Have a support system. Surrounding yourself with supportive friends, co-workers, or family members is important for long-term success.

Finally, keep in mind that the commitment to maintaining weight loss will be a lifelong effort. Having the overall approach that this is a lifestyle change, not a one-time diet or quick fix, is important for long-term success.